When the Atlanta-based spin off of VH1's Love & Hip Hop premiered in June, it's safe to say that viewers weren't expecting to see such an emotional side to rapper and entrepreneur Benzino. Given his past at The Source and a well-known feud with Eminem, it may have been surprising to see the Boston native crying on national television at first, but being more in touch with his feelings is a main component of what Benzino considers his "natural evolution."
Besides being the voice of reason to Stevie J and middle man in the Joseline and Mimi love triangle, Benzino's relationship with recording artist Karlie Redd has taken center stage throughout the season. Before the finale of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta rolls around tonight, Benzino spoke with Complex about his relationship with Karlie, how he's become a changed man, and gave some insight on all of the drama behind Stevie J's relationships.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@laurencynthia)
How did you get involved with Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta?
I’ve known Stevie for a long time. We had been working on some music and when I got to Atlanta, we formed a band together and it was pretty much the relationship that you see on there with me and Stevie. We give each other advice. He knows my kids. I know his kids. It’s just a real relationship between friends.
From what I understand, you and your love interest, Karlie Redd, met prior to the show?
I had been going around with Stevie and I had seen Karlie a couple times on set. The one time when they were shooting Karlie meeting Stevie, I was outside. So when Karlie came outside, that was the first time we met. We met off-camera, we went out on a date. Then Mona [Scott-Young] was like, "If you’re going to be dating any cast members, I have to get it on camera." We had developed a good connection off-camera. At first I was a little bit leery, a little skeptical. I didn’t want myself to be portrayed in any type of negative light because I felt like I’ve been through enough of that in my life.
If somebody is using me it’s because I’m letting them. I won’t let nobody abuse me. You can use me but you can’t abuse me.
I feel like you’re portrayed in a positive light on the show.
I’ve changed my life for the better. I’ve definitely matured a lot. I’m a lot older. I see things differently. It’s all for the better.
What made you realize you had to change yourself?
I think it’s just the natural evolution of somebody. Not being self-centered and being aware of what I say and what I do as a public figure, as a celebrity, and how it affects other people. I have three kids that I’m raising. They live with me. I want to be a real role model to them and show them better. I just think it’s a natural level of maturity.
A lot of the drama we see between you and Karlie is about her career and how that’s taken over your relationship. Do you believe in her career? Do you think she has real talent?
Yes, I’ve heard some of Karlie’s music. I believe she does have talent. I believe that she focuses hard and there’s nothing like a woman that really focuses on her independence. At the same time, in a relationship, you really have to be able to balance the attention that’s being displayed. At the end of the day, your mate, whether it’s male or female, no matter what you’re doing, you still have to find time to give them attention because everybody wants to be attended to.
Do you ever get nervous that she’s using you to further her career?
I’m at the point now that if somebody is using me it’s because I’m letting them. I won’t let nobody abuse me. You can use me but you can’t abuse me. If I’m into you and I really like you, there’s nothing that I won’t do for you. I really feel like a man should go all out for the woman that they fall in love with or the woman they have a real strong connection with. With that said, if somebody takes advantage, then you have to re-think things.
For the most part, I wholeheartedly believe in love. When I met Karlie, it was a real connection. Both of us had been in the industry and we just had a real, strong connection. It happened real fast. Karlie is very outgoing and I’m kind of private in my life. Sometimes opposites can be a little bit too much, but I definitely can say that what you see on camera is real. My feelings for Karlie that are on camera are definitely what they are.
The show makes it seem like your relationship happened so fast but I’m sure there were months that went by in between episodes.
I had gave Karlie the key two months after us talking. It wasn’t like I just met her.